You don’t have to be an established book reviewer; you just need to have an opinion! I would like YOU to help me create the perfect suspense romance novel.

The working title is Who Are You? The novel will be a stand alone sequel to Hearts On the Run and will focus around Max, an assistant district attorney who is seduced by his dream woman – who then disappears on him without a trace. When he finally discovers who she is, he’s in for another surprise. It seems someone else is after her as well, and will use any means necessary to get her. Even if that means killing Max to get him out of the way.

Intrigued? There's more: I’ll even publish your name at the end of the book under a section titled, “My Opinion Mattered.” (You may stay anonymous if you would like.) If this sounds like fun, then this is how you can critique the novel every step of the way:

Every couple of days, I will post a small section of the book. After reading it, comment on what you liked, what you didn't like, how the dialogue flowed, character traits, how well edited the section was, and whatever else you can think of while reading. I will then revise the section based on your suggestions. Names published under the "My Opinion Mattered" section will be listed in order of number of comments contributed, so comment often! For those just joining us, please check out the blog archives to start the book from the beginning.

There is also an area to vote on how well you think the novel is progressing. You will be able to change your vote as the novel progresses to best reflect how you feel at any given time along the journey to a completed novel.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Part 6 of Who Are You?

Chapter 6

Oh God, what if he knows?!  Lauren sat at her desk dreading the meeting she had in a few minutes with Max.  She would never live down the embarrassment if he knew it was her.  And what if he had told people?  She’d be mortified. 
A knock on her open door startled her out of her internal panic attack.  “Hey, sorry, didn’t mean to make you jump.  Just wanted to make sure we were still on for happy hour.”  Lauren looked up at her best friend, Audrey Stillwater, standing in the doorway.  They had started last year around the same time and had instantly connected.  Audrey had only been on staff for a couple of months before Lauren, so they learned the ropes together and in the process, found they had a lot in common outside of work as well.  But as close as they were, Lauren still hadn’t confided in her about what she had done with Max.  She was going to take that secret to her grave.  Unless Max had already outed her.
            Lauren sighed wishing they could start happy hour now.  “Yes, but I have a meeting first.  I have to meet with Max Canter about a case.”
            “Ugh, really?  That sucks.”  Audrey came in and took a caramel out of the bowl Lauren always kept on her desk.  “What about?”
            “A recommendation to send one of my kids to David’s ranch.”
            “Yeah, good luck with that.  He has the compassion of a toad.”
            But he’s excellent in bed, Lauren thought, and then quickly squelched that line of thinking.  “I know, but I have to try.”
            “Who’re the flowers from?  They’re beautiful.”  Audrey leaned over to smell a flower from the large bouquet of tropical flowers on her desk.
            “Take them if you want them.  That creepy person who’s been sending me flowers at home has decided to send them to me at work now.”
            Audrey frowned.  “Are you sure it’s not David?”
            “Yes.  He’s more worried about them than I am.  He thinks I should file a police report about it.”
            Audrey snorted.  “Like that would do you any good.  I think half the force would be glad if someone was making our lives miserable.”
            “That’s what I told him.” 
“Who’s making our lives miserable?” Jeremy Beckman asked from the doorway.  Great, just what she needed.  Jeremy was another defense attorney and he always chose the most inopportune times to show up at her office.  Usually it was to ask her out.  She had told him several times that she wasn’t interested but he kept coming up with new and unique ideas to try to tempt her. 
An inch shorter than Lauren, Jeremy was average in just about every way.  He wasn’t ugly, per se, but with his dull brown hair, roundish acne-scarred face and a nose that was just a little too big, he definitely wasn’t handsome either.  His murky brown eyes reminded Lauren of a basset hound.  And a receding hairline had him parting his hair in an awkward pattern; not quite a comb over yet – but it was getting close.  The beginnings of a spare tire around his middle made his clothes not fit properly, giving him an unkempt look.  Nothing about him screamed ‘date me’ to Lauren.
“Nobody,” Audrey told him.
Ignoring her, he turned to Lauren.  “Hey, I have an extra ticket to the Red Wings game this weekend.  A buddy of mine canceled on me.  I’d be happy to give it to you because I know you’re a big fan.  We could even car pool.”
Lauren tried not to laugh at the faces Audrey was making behind Jeremy’s back.  It took her about half a second to determine if the six hour ride to Detroit and back in a car with Jeremy would be worth seeing the Red Wings live.  “Sorry, Jeremy, I already promised my grandmother I would help her clean out the attic this weekend,” she lied.  Her grandmother’s house didn’t even have an attic.
“Can’t you do that next weekend?” he asked.
Lauren shook her head as solemnly as possible with Audrey being oh so mature behind Jeremy’s back.  “You know how grandmothers get.  It would break her heart if I went back on a promise.  Otherwise, I would have loved to have seen the Red Wings.”  She was careful not to say she would have loved to have seen them with him.  Not in this lifetime. 
Snapping his fingers, he said with a grin, “Hey, maybe I could trade them in for a future game!”
“I appreciate the thought, but I don’t want you to miss the game this weekend.  You should just take someone else.  I’m sure you can find someone who wants to go with you.”
Obviously disappointed, he sulked, “Yeah, sure.  I bet one of my other buddies will want to go.” 
Looking at the clock, Lauren sighed and stood up.  “I have to go, I have a meeting.  Meet you a little after six?” she said to Audrey.
Jeremy’s face lit up again.  “Are you ladies doing happy hour?”
“Yes,” Audrey said cocking her head to the side trying to look as innocent as possible when Jeremy turned to look at her.  “Because I want to tell Lauren all about how heavy and crampy my period is right now.  I’m hoping if I describe it in great detail, she’ll be able to tell me if there’s something wrong with me.  Do you want to come?”
Looking a little green now, Jeremy said, “Um, no, I think I already have other plans.  Maybe next time.”  He turned on his heels and hurried out of Lauren’s office before Audrey had the chance to say anything else.
Coming around her desk, Lauren shook her head and chuckled.  “You’re so mean.”
“It worked, didn’t it?” Audrey asked smugly.  “I’ll have a drink waiting for you.  You’ll need it.”
            “Thanks,” Lauren said over her shoulder as she walked out of her office.  She probably would.
A few minutes later, Lauren stood staring out the window in Max’s office trying to calm her nerves.  The receptionist had shown her in explaining Max was running a few minutes behind but would be with her shortly.  She should have been annoyed he was keeping her waiting.  Instead, she was relieved to have a moment or two to compose herself.  She had been dreading the first time she would have to see him since the party and her nerves were about shot.
            “Good afternoon,” Max said briskly from behind her, startling her enough to make her jump.  She could have sworn she heard him snicker but his face was blank when she turned towards him.  “Cup of coffee?” he asked holding out one of the Styrofoam cups he had in his hand.
            “Yes, please,” she said being careful not to touch him when she took the cup.  She didn’t trust herself.
            Max sat down behind his desk and Lauren sat in the chair across from him.  Trying to avoid looking at him for as long as possible, Lauren looked around the room as he got situated.  Only one picture graced the walls, a modern art print in shades of gray.  Cheery, she thought.  There wasn’t a single personal item or photo anywhere.
            Max opened the file that was on top of a short stack of files on his desk.  “You’re here to talk about Marshawn Devereaux, right?”
            “Yes,” Lauren croaked out.  Darn it!  If she didn’t stop being so nervous she’d give herself away!  Clearing her throat, she tried again.  “Yes, I am.”
            Not only did Max seem oblivious to her nervousness, he wasn’t acting like he knew they had slept together, either.  Maybe her secret was safe.  Looking up from the file, he said, “The boy was caught with the knife, in the store he was attempting to rob, with the man he stabbed.  This is a pretty simple case of armed robbery and attempted murder.  He’s sixteen so I’m going to try him as an adult.”
            Annoyed enough not to have to worry about her voice any more, Lauren glared at him.  “He was found with the man he stabbed because he was applying pressure to the wound that he never meant to inflict in the first place.  He had panicked when the man came at him with a baseball bat.  If he hadn’t stayed in the store continuing to apply pressure until the police and ambulance arrived, the man would have bled out.  He saved that man’s life even knowing he would be caught.”
            “He saved the man’s life after he attempted to end it.  Not exactly what I would call a Good Samaritan act,” Max countered coolly.
            “In his statement he admitted to the attempted robbery but said that he was coerced into it by the Logan Street Gang.  It was either rob the store, or they go after him and his mother.”
            Max shrugged.  “If that was the case, he should have gone to the police.  He had options besides robbing the store and trying to kill the proprietor.”
            Lauren wished she could reach across the desk and throttle him.  No one else in the DA’s office had the ability to make her as angry as Max did.  Actually, no one else anywhere.  “You know how these things work,” she said trying to keep her voice calm.  “They were watching him.  How do you think he was supposed to go to the police?  And even if he did, what would have happened?  The police would have taken his statement, maybe, and that’s a big maybe.  Then maybe they would have talked to some of the gang members and written a meaningless report, leaving Marshawn in even more trouble with the gang!”
            “So I’m supposed to take the word of every gang member who comes before me and claims to have been coerced?  They all say that,” Max rebutted practically growling at her.
            “Most of them probably were!” Lauren almost shouted.  Taking a deep breath, she tried to get her blood pressure back to normal and started again.  “I’m not saying that you should believe everyone who says that, but I believe Marshawn is telling the truth.  He’s a straight A student and has never had a run in with the law before this.  I interviewed his neighbors and they all said the same thing.  He’s a good kid.  He even mows the lawns in the summer time for some of his elderly neighbors and does some light shopping for them from time to time just to help them out.  Does that really sound like a hardened criminal to you?”
            Max sat back in his chair and glowered at her for several moments.  With a clenched jaw, he finally asked, “What are you proposing?”
            “There’s a facility called Second Chance Ranch that has been very successful with kids like Marshawn.  Kids who ended up in the system but shouldn’t really be there.  Judges from all over the state have sent kids to this program.”
            Max raised his eyebrows and looked at her doubtfully.  “Second Chance Ranch?”
            “Yes, I brought a copy of the brochure for you to look at.”  Lauren handed him the brochure, again making sure their hands didn’t touch.
            Max looked it over for a minute and then set it down in front of him.  “So it’s a Dude Ranch for teenagers.  Sounds like fun, can I go?”  He didn’t even bother to try to cover his sarcasm.
            Lauren counted to ten before answering between gritted teeth.  “It is not a Dude Ranch.  It’s a secure facility dedicated to giving kids like Marshawn a second chance.”
            “It still sounds like a vacation to me,” Max scoffed.
            “Well, it’s not.  David makes sure those kids work hard to accomplish their goals!”
            Max’s eyebrows rose again.  “David?”
            Lauren wanted to kick herself.  She hadn’t meant to give away the fact that she knew the person who ran the facility.  “Dr. David Spencer runs the program and he happens to be a friend of mine.  That doesn’t change the fact that it’s an excellent program.”
            Max stared at her for several minutes with an expression on his face she couldn’t read.  Finally, he leaned forward with his arms on his desk.  “How secure is it?”
            “There’s armed security and the kids are housed in male and female dormitories with regular bed checks.  The kids are supervised twenty-four seven with no possibility of escape.”
            With a hard expression on his face, Max sat back in his chair again and crossed his arms over his chest.  “What I’m afraid of if I say yes to this recommendation, and I’m not anywhere near saying yes at this point, is that you’re going to want to send every kid who comes through the system there.”
            Fuming now, Lauren was beyond the point where counting to ten would help calm her down.  “I know how to do my job, Mr. Canter.  This program has been up and running for four years and this is the first and only time I have come to you, or any of the other ADA’s, with anyone I thought would be a good candidate.  So, your fear is not only unfounded, but insulting as well.”
            For several minutes, the two of them sat glaring at each other.  Lauren’s desire to throttle him had morphed into a wish to run him over with her car.  Twice.  Only Max Canter could make her contemplate murder.
Finally, Max leaned forward and put his arms on his desk again.  “I apologize if I insulted you,” he said without sounding at all like he meant it.  “I would like to see this place.  Do you think you could arrange it with your friend?”
            Lauren didn’t like the emphasis he put on the word friend, as if implying she had a more intimate relationship than friendship with David.  “That wouldn’t be a problem.  I start teaching a Spanish class there tomorrow.  I could arrange for a tour after that.”
            “Fine, leave me a message to confirm the time when you have it arranged.  But in the meantime, Marshawn Devereaux stays right where he is in county lock up awaiting trial.”  Closing Marshawn’s file, he stood up.  He walked to his office door and opened it.
            Still fuming, Lauren took his oh so subtle hint and rose to leave.  Neither of them bothered to say good bye as she walked past him.  She hoped Audrey was true to her word and had that drink waiting for her.  She needed it.


  1. That's great! The only thing I have is that when they start talking about the flowers, you do their name then a verb then quote for four sentences in a row. Audrey frowned. Laura nodded. Audrey snorted. I just thought it'd be better to mix up the sentence structure more. Other than that, it's still going awesome!

  2. Good point - I changed that part a little bit. Thanks!